Walt Humphries’ Life’s Like That exhibit is coming off museum walls next week, but not without a proper goodbye.
The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre (PWNHC) is hosting a “flashlight farewell,” to bid a proper adieu to Humphries’ 11-month gallery run.
Participants can sign up for the Nov. 26 event in groups of four, to take a 30-minute tour of the exhibit guided by co-curators Sarah Swan and Bill Braden, as well as Humphries himself and his wife Diane Baldwin.
Each will be stationed at a different point of the exhibit to share their own anecdotes and points of interest in the work. Humphries will delve into the inception of his works, while Braden puts historical elements into context, adding bits of legend and folklore. Swan outlines what makes Humphries’ paintings successful from an artistic perspective.
“It’s like speed dating the art,” Swan said, outlining the 10 minutes each group will have to ask questions, hear stories, and explore each station of the darkened exhibit by flashlight.
The flashlight tour is a concept gaining popularity in southern galleries as a way of drawing participants to galleries in small groups during the pandemic.
“With the flashlight, the power is with you to investigate what you’re interested in,” Swan said. “We thought it would be really well suited to Walt’s work because his work is incredibly detailed. Every time I look at his paintings I see something I haven’t noticed before.”
The tours will run next Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Interested participants can book their timeslots through the PWNHC eventbrite page. By Wednesday afternoon, only hours after becoming available, half the spots had already been filled.
When Life’s Like That’ was first unveiled on gallery walls, there was no fanfare. After an extension six months past the exhibit’s initial closure date, however, “it would have been sad to just take it off the walls without ceremony,” Swan said.
Swan said her and Braden had pushed for Humphries to showcase his art in the museum because they see him “not just as a local quirky columnist for the paper,” but as “a world-class artist.”
“He’s incredibly brilliant,” Swan said.
Accompanying the flashlight farewell, the mobile art gallery will also be parked in the museum’s parking lot to display some of Humphries’ never-before-seen drawings from the ’70s and ’80s.
The pen and inks are “have a lot of character and whimsy and no one in town has ever seen these before,” Swan said.
Many of the pieces on display are a part of people’s private collections they’ve donated for the exhibit. Swan encourages Yellowknifers to come out to the free event as “it may be a very long time before people have the chance to see these again.”
Next at the PWNHC, Covered Ground features Yellowknife artist Tracey Bryant and Alberta-based artist Rhonda Harder Epp. The exhibit will display encaustic paintings and paper sculptures representing Northern landscapes with a particular focus on lichen.
Covered Ground will launch on Dec. 9 for a six-month run.